I can’t be poisoned and you will not make me cry
The lyrics have their origins in a long, multi-page poem by Wire called The Descent. The lyrics a cropped version of the first two pages of that poem – hence (Pages 1 & 2). It’s also the band’s first ‘tour bus song’, something they had previously been against (due to how easily those songs fall into clichéd longing of home and loved ones, as the band’s put it) but The Descent simply manifested itself. According to James, it’s one of the fastest written, most naturally formed songs in the band’s history.
The star attraction of The Descent is its chorus, built on Sean’s march beat and an elegant string section to make it sound regally anthemic. It’s hard to explain but there is a sort of timeless beauty to it – it just sounds so classically stylish. It swoops and marches onward with grace, elegance and simultaneous anthemic power. That chorus is the first time the Manics have managed to recapture the quintessentially British rock beauty of Everything Must Go despite several attempts before the song.
The verses aren’t as strong but the more I hear them, the more they begin to work on me. They’re not actually that much worse musically – it’s simply the switch from the more normal-paced rock verses to the slow chorus that feels a bit jarring initially. But time mends all that and The Descent has found its place as one of the stronger cuts of Postcards. There’s something in its strings especially: for a band that seems to find some sort of personal solace in big rock songs with strings, it’s a formula that does them less justice than most of the other paths they follow. But the key ingredient really is the use of live strings and the way the arrangements have become much more interesting because it’s not just pressing a key on a keyboard. It’s especially audible in the chorus – it’s not the most complex of patterns, but it feels alive and backs the march pattern wonderfully.